The lovely Nikki Ramskill gave me the wonderful opportunity of posting on her blog, The Female Money Doctor. Enjoy!
How many times have you caught yourself judging a friend on their spending patterns?
There’s a pretty high chance it’s happened in the past. Maybe you can’t understand why your friend spends over £200 a month on clothes, or your colleague who has three cars on finance.
I recently read an article that sparked my thinking about how we make assumptions about our friend, family, and partner’s spending habits. We all do it, thinking that they make bad money decisions while on the other hand, yours are great.
In all honesty, countless studies and anecdotes show that most people are bad with their money! For example, they may be trapped in a consumer debt cycle or in denials about their financial situation.
Judging your friends’ spending habits reduces the chance of you examining your own finances. This is because perceiving their habits as “bad” makes it easier for you to justify your financial decisions as you don’t, for example, spend over £200 a month on clothes.
But is there really any point judging others based on their finances?
Just as your friends most probably overspend on the things they see as necessary, you might be doing it too.
“She spent HOW MUCH on [insert high value item here]?!”
I get it, we all have something we are happy to spend lots of money on. For me, it is food and eating out in restaurants. For other people, it may be spending hundreds of pounds on a pair of Valentino heels.
What may seem normal spending to you may be completely abnormal for someone else.
For instance, it seems to be “normal” to buy a house to live in, but buying a house as an investment? This is a decision that is often judged as the person is perceived as someone who has loads of money to “throw away” – especially with all the negative news coverage around high housing prices.
There are always people who will criticise your spending decisions. Take, for example, comments on Reddit about making big purchases:
I am in the financial position to buy them, but i [sic] just dont [sic] want to be Roasted for buying them. My friends and family are not Too keen on buying expensive stuff. (Brumbass02)
I laughed pretty hard at my brother a few years ago when he proudly presented me his exeptionally [sic] ugly new scarf from whatever expensive brand, on which he spent 160€. Onehundredandsixty Euros! on a […] ugly scarf! it was just a brown and orange piece of ordinary cloth with a name on it. I bet that, somewhere in the world, you can buy the exact same thing just without the name on it for 5€. (TheoriginalTonio)
You can find these types of people critiquing each other’s spending habits everywhere!
It seems to be their mission to highlight how that person is making a huge mistake spending X amount on a purchase as they think they would never be so “stupid” to do that. In fact, they may be doing just that. Instead, they are justifying the purchase in their mind.
Maybe they felt that they earned it after a busy week at work. Maybe they default into spending lots of money when life gets tough. Maybe they just wanted some new stuff.
“Everyone finds justification for his or her views in logic and analysis.” – George Packer
Why we judge our friend’s spending habits
We unconsciously project our values and cultural background onto our friends. These come from past experiences where we have ‘learnt’ that for us, this is normal.
One of my good friends comes from an incredibly thrifty background. She is incredibly money conscious and plans her spending down to the last detail. It is also an uncomfortable feeling for her to make any big purchases. Because of this, she finds it difficult to understand how this is normal for others.
When we judge, we do it emotionally rather than rationally. Take for instance a friend of yours spending a large amount of money on something you wouldn’t spend it on, like eating at the most expensive restaurant in the city. Instead of basing our reaction on analysing the amount of wealth in their life, debt levels, spending habits, then making a judgement; we usually automatically respond with disbelief.
And while responding this way to other people’s spending patterns, we are constantly justifying our own.
Five years ago, I was saying to my friends and family that I would never “waste” money on a car. “It’s losing money every time you drive it, I’d much rather go with public transport” I would happily chatter. Fast forward three years and I bought my first car.
I felt I had to justify it to myself: it’s much easier to go and visit family (the main reason), and I love having the independence.
For me, it is completely worth it and my finances have worked around it. However, someone in a different financial position may judge me because cars are expensive to run and maintain, becoming a liability.
Next time you go to judge your friend’s newest expensive purchase, ask yourself…
- How much money do they have to spend after their necessities and savings?
- What do they happily choose to spend on?
- How long will the purchase last?
- Are my finances in the best state they can be? How can I earn more money? How can I be better with my spending?
By going beyond the knee-jerk reaction, it becomes easier to reduce the chance of being judgemental. When making quick assumptions and judgements, we miss out on the chance to learn more about the context behind the decision.
This is something I’ve been working on recently. I find it helps to remember that everyone’s situation is very different and their money biases may be completely different to mine. Besides, I could spend that thinking energy on much better things!
Do you catch yourself judging people based on their spending?
What purchases do you find yourself being the most judgemental of?